by Jay Scruggs, originally published in eGroomer Journal Fall 2012
Let’s start by understanding the Bichon Frise and the desired look after styling. This breed should not appear square. Their appearance should be a little longer than they are tall. A Bichon should have a soft look, no sharp angles or anything too extreme. Bichon styling is made up of a lot of round circles, nothing about the trim should be sharp.
Expression is the most important part of this breed. In this article I will give you some helpful hints to achieve the correct breed profile.
First things first! Coat preparation is key to having a perfect finished style. I use Coat Handler 15-1 shampoo followed by a very light conditioner rinsed out. This way Coat Handler will not soften the coat allowing you to get a nice finish.
Conditioner helps free the coat of static when drying and combing. It is very important the dog is dried from the skin out to the tips of the coat.
I high velocity the coat to about 98% dry, and then use a little heat while brushing to straighten the coat. It’s a good idea to have anti-static spray when drying and scissoring the coat.
Once completely fluffed and combed out set lines with your clippers. This is an important step when grooming puppies. The goal is to reduce dead or limp hair before you start to scissor.
The first step is to set lines for the front and rear. I start at the Adam’s apple with a 1/2 inch snap-on comb and trim from there to the breast bone and skim out. I always use the Wahl Stainless Steel snap-ons with a #30 blade under them.
Next find the point of the rump and trim down the back of the leg to the bend in the leg. Once at the bend, skim out away from the dog.
Next, start just behind the withers and make a continuous line towards the rump of the dog. Remember, you want the top line level. Examine how the dog carries its tail before trimming. Once the top line is set follow the lines down the sides into the spring of rib being careful not to cut into the tuck up. Then go under the ear. Use the Adam’s apple as a guide for how far to go up. Connect the part under the neck into the shoulders.
Be careful not to pinch the elbows when going down from under the ear to the shoulder. Skim as you get to the elbows.
You do not want any definition between the shoulder and the legs. The same goes for the hips to the back legs. Everything should blend in and appear even.
I usually stand the dog up on its hind legs and trim from between the elbows to the belly. If you do this be careful not to take out the hair on the sides and into the tuck up. We will use this hair to give the dog a moderate tuck up.
At this point the lines are blocked. It’s time to start the scissor work. Remember, round, round, round. I use curved shears a lot for Bichons.
The goal is to set the front, back and then everything in between. Start by cleaning up the clipper work with scissors from under the ear to the shoulder. There should be a continuous line with no break in it.
Use curves to start the roundness that transfers to the chest and into the sides.
Set in the rear and hips. Hold the tail up and using curves round the hips in, and then flip your curves over and set in the angulation to the bend in the leg. Set in the top line using straights.
Remember you want a level top line and round edges into the sides. Do not cut up into the withers at this point. Leave the head and neck for last.
Once everything is blended from front to back, and back to front, set the feet and then the legs. It is important to do the feet before the legs. Otherwise it’s hard to balance everything and maintain symmetry.
Start with the back feet. I usually trim the back feet a little tighter to make the dog appear as if it is up on its toes, and to see a nice hock. When looking at the foot from the bottom, make sure there is an equal amount of hair on each side of the foot. I usually trim my shape in with the foot in my hand, then set the foot down on the table to trim in the bevel shape. On the back feet trim from the point of hock to the back pad on the foot. It creates a nice angle.
Now that the back feet are set use curves to blend from the hip, down the side of the leg into the foot. Work the same curve shape to the front of the leg and create the bend in the knee. The bend on the knee should match the bend on the back of the leg.
Move to the front of the dog and set the front feet. We want them to appear round. Bevel the feet into the leg hair. Everything should look uniform and blended from leg to foot. When feet are finished, go from the point of the shoulder down the side of the leg making a round shape. Doing the outside of the leg will correct any faults. Trim the same shape on the inside of the legs using curves. The best way to trim the legs is with the dog standing up. If you try to trim with the leg in your hand it’s very difficult to style them even.
Now focus on the tuck-up. The tuck up should be moderate, not extreme. If your tuck-ups look like a Poodle you are doing them incorrectly. Find the last rib and make a cut using curve shears just behind that point. Follow the chest out to the elbow and scissor into the shortest point of the tuck-up. Imagine the dog without the front leg. See a chest that flows out the elbow into the underline with no break in the line. Just behind the shortest point of the tuck-up leave some hair which fills in to attach the front of the back leg. When all of this hair is removed the dog’s body will appear very long.
The head and neck are the focal points of this breed. They should never be groomed like a Poodle! Start by using thinning shears to clean the corners of the eyes. Comb the hair around the visor or above the eyes forward and with the curves facing out, trim right above each eye. This effect will really show off the expression.
Next comb everything up and using a 21 tooth blender and start blending the head into the ears. Do not lift ears or cut the hair in front of the ears. Ears should be parts of the head. I use blenders with soft puppy coats. The blenders are more forgiving than curves and help build volume.
Pull the tip of the ear to the nose. If the tip is longer than the nose take some length off. Now trim from the Adam’s apple to the bottom of the ears creating a soft line. Work the shape of the top of the head from right to left, and then left to right to make sure all is even. Once the top of the head is finished blend from the top of the head into the withers and into the level top line. If the client likes the neck shorter or the dog tends to mat use the same guidelines and go a bit shorter.
Finish the groom by giving the coat a good spritz of anti stat. Comb out and take off any loose ends. Well done! ♦